Heavy sigh. The Cubs lost last night. That hasn’t been happening very much the last month. Once again, when they did lose, the bullpen was under the microscope. To be fair, the Cubs had the lead late and then gave it up. No bullpen is going to be perfect, but two different Cubs relievers gave up homers in the same game and that’s going to draw attention. It wasn’t one pitcher that lead to the failure, it was multiple pitchers.
The Cubs bullpen isn’t great. But it has actually been pretty good. Brandon Kintzler, who allowed the first of the homers last night, has actually been very good. But he’s had a little bit of trouble with the long ball. For his career, 12.5% of his fly balls allowed have been homers. This year, that is all of the way up to 23.1%. Joe hasn’t really used Brandon in the highest leverage spots, so Kintzler appears to be being used about the way he would even if the Cubs had injured Pedro Strop and either injured Brandon Morrow or some other back end option. Despite the homer problems, Kintzler has a 2.29 ERA and a 4.07 FIP. There is no world in which he isn’t going to remain a part of this Cubs pen and he’s done well enough to justify the largely medium leverage spots that he’s been handed.
Carl Edwards Jr. allowed the other home run. Joe and the Cubs brass is giving Carl every opportunity to be the pitcher he can be. Carl was battling his control a bit last night from what I could see. Then he appeared to not want to give in and walk Eugenio Suarez and he ended up throwing a meatball that Suarez deposited somewhere around Jupiter. (Sadly, this was one of two at bats I saw in the whole game). Carl just hasn’t gotten it done this year. As a whole, the bullpen that was available to the Cubs just wasn’t adequate last night. Morrow has been out forever, so I don’t really consider that being down a man in the pen. However, Strop is out. Steve Cishek was down because of heavy recent usage. It appears that Brad Brach may have been the choice for the ninth inning of this one had there been a save opportunity.
You’ll spread your own frustration where you choose to. But I’ll make this point. Yes, the Cubs bullpen was inadequate last night due to pieces that weren’t available. And if this were October and that was the best the Cubs have to offer, I’d be pretty frustrated with the Cubs front office. Strop will return. Cishek would be available if this were a playoff game. Morrow may or may not make any impact once he actually returns to the field. But the Cubs are running a four month audition in the bullpen for who will actually be there when the Cubs do make it back to the playoffs. That’s when all of this will matter. Barring a striking turn of events, Carl Edwards Jr. wouldn’t be there if this were a playoff game. The Cubs front office (and every other good front office with adequate resources) adds relief pitchers every year at the trade deadline. This year will be no exception. With the way this team has played, very much like 2016, the Cubs will surely tap both their financial and their minor league resources to bring in at least one high end piece and possibly a mid level piece as well.
Also note this. The hitters available to the Cubs weren’t adequate. With Joe wanting Willson Contreras to get a full day off, there weren’t a good number of bats available either. Ben Zobrist remains on indefinite leave. Anthony Rizzo isn’t available. Daniel Descalso has been at least a little bit limited for almost two weeks. We saw this last year with the Cubs too. When they aren’t fully healthy, some of the players get exposed. For all of the offensive talent that the Cubs deploy, guys like Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Addison Russell, not to mention Zobrist and Descalso, are all better players when Joe has a full compliment of options and he can mix and match to try to optimize matchups.
So to make my point, I’m not angry that the bullpen was inadequate last night. I’m going to say that the whole team that was put on the field last night wasn’t adequate. They didn’t have enough weapons on either side of the ball. Yet, there they were leading 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning. They damn near won a fourth straight game with their worst starter, a lineup that was only a couple notches up from a split squad spring training game and a depleted bullpen. So you’ll pardon me while I’m not panicking in the streets. They lost a game. I suspect that’ll happen dozens more time this year. I’d certainly rather they were losing the ones when they were short handed than the ones where all hands were on deck and they just weren’t getting the job done.
With that, we turn our attention to yesterday’s game as we look at what WPA had to say about Heroes and Goats. As always the Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA (Win Probability Added — here’s a good explanation of how WPA works) and are not in any way subjective. Many days WPA will not tell the story of what happened, but often it can give at least a glimpse to who rose to the occasion in a high leverage moment or who didn’t get the job done in that moment. Also note, for the purposes of Heroes and Goats, we ignore the results of pitchers while they are batting and hitters while they are pitching. With that, we get to the results.
Game 40, May 15: Cubs 5 at Reds 6 (25-15)
- Superhero: Addison Russell (.218). Addison had his first really good night at the plate since being back. He had two hits including a two-run homer. He scored twice. Addison still has a very tiny 15 plate appearances since coming back, but he has a wRC+ of 148 to date. Don’t be surprised if he starts seeing a bit more frequent playing time.
- Hero: Yu Darvish (.118). Yu should have been the story of this game, but it got lost in the bullpen collapse. He threw 5⅓ innings and allowed five hits, two runs and struck out 11. Importantly, he didn’t walk anyone. Even with this performance, he’s got a BB/9 of 7.07 which would be higher even than the worst rate of his career (last year at 4.73).
- Sidekick: Kyle Schwarber (.115). Kyle had a solo homer and also drew a walk in four plate appearances. Kyle gets a lot of ire for his slow start to the season. Over 138 plate appearances he has a wRC+ of 93.
- Billy Goat: Carl Edwards Jr. (-.259). One inning pitched, one hit, one run, one strike out. He also allowed an inherited to score.
- Goat: Brad Brach (-.225). Brach threw the ninth and then started the 10th. He threw a perfect ninth, but then allowed two walks (one intentional) and two singles (one would have surely been more than a single had it not been a walk off) while only recording one out in the 10th.
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.138). He pinch hit in the top of the 10th with a runner on first and two outs and grounded out to the pitcher.
WPA Play of the Game: Carl Edwards Jr. was summoned to face Eugenio Suarez with a runner on first and no outs in the eighth inning. The Cubs were leading 5-3. He allowed a moon shot home run. (.366) Carl already has two of the five largest negative WPA events of the Cubs season which is now one-quarter complete.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Addison Russell’s two-run homer in the second inning off of Reds starter Sonny Gray. (.203)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Willson Contreras/Jon Lester 8
- Jose Quintana 7
- David Bote -9.5
- Carl Edwards Jr./Albert Almora Jr. -11
Up Next: The Cubs will try to keep their consecutive series won streak going, but they’ll need a win against the Reds top pitcher to do it. The Reds will look for a second consecutive series win.
Jose Quintana gets the start for the Cubs. Jose is 4-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 46⅓ innings of work on the year. Last time out he was tagged with a loss against the Brewers. In that one he threw 6⅔ innings and allowed four hits, three walks and three runs. He struck out six. Q faced the Reds four times in 2018 and he was 2-2 and allowed eight runs in 22 innings. Just one year ago (5/19), he threw seven shutout innings allowing only one hit in Cincinnati. Current Reds have 147 plate appearances against Jose with a .757 OPS. Jose Iglesias has the most plate appearances at 27 (.630 OPS). One batter who has done well against Q is Joey Votto, who just loves Cubs pitching, (14 PA, 1.286 OPS). One batter who has struggled is Jose Peraza (14, .429).
The Reds send their young ace Luis Castillo to the hill. Luis is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA in 56⅓ innings. Last time out, he threw six shutout innings in San Francisco, allowing only two hits and five walks. He struck out 11. He hasn’t been charged with a loss since his second start of the year way back on April 3 against the Brewers. Despite his strong performances on the year, the Reds are only 5-4 when he starts. Last year, Luis faced the Cubs five times and was 2-1 with a 4.74 ERA in 43⅔ innings. The 26-year-old right-hander has taken a giant step forward in his development though in 2019.
Castillo has allowed only a .410 OPS in 108 plate appearances to right handed hitters. He’s allowed a .597 OPS in 112 plate appearances to left handed hitters. Hopefully, Anthony Rizzo can return to the lineup tonight. That said, Anthony has the most plate appearances against Castillo. In 16 PA, he has just a .466 OPS. One Cub who has hit Castillo well is Daniel Descalso (12, 1.517). Kyle Schwarber also has two home runs in just nine PA against the young Reds ace.
This looks like a tough one. Hopefully the Cubs can stay just hot enough to squeak one out.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.